We catch up with Chicano artist Ramon Ramirez at his home in East L.A. His work exudes a quiet depth, images of urbanity in Southern California featuring rich, often color saturated oil paintings with themes of nature (palm trees) and concrete (skyscrapers).  

Here's our conversation:

ARBOL- Where did you grow up, what’s your heritage, and did your environment play a part in your artistic future?

RR- I grew up in East LA, California.  I consider myself Chicano or Mexican American.  I grew up indoors mostly with one TV.  So imagination was a must.  That's where I began to draw.  

ARBOL- Who were you early influences? 

RR- I didn't really have any early art influences.  Nobody I knew was an artist.  I didn't know that one can be an artist as a career.  I think that's why I went to Architecture school and not art school for college.  


ARBOL- Are you primarily a painter? Is the passion always there? At what age did you start?  

RR- I consider myself a painter but I'm always drawing.  Just keeping the skills sharp.  Painting is sometimes slow.  So I'll do warm up drawings and such.  The passion, yes, it's always there.  I have a backlog of paintings that I want to do.  I'm afraid that if I live to the age of 90, I still won't have enough time to paint what I want to paint.  I started drawing at an early age...5 years old, me thinks.  

ARBOL- You also teach architecture? Or do you teach painting? Does that require you to switch gears? 

RR- I used to teach architectural drawing and design at the college level but I'm just a painter now.  It was all part of the creative process.  I don't really think it was all too different.  It was always about ideas. Tapping into to the creative current.  But I don't teach anymore.  I dedicate my time to my studio practice now.  

ARBOL- When a student has obvious talent, do you see that right away, and do you try to foster that? 

RR- It's a natural thing to gravitate towards talented students.  A good instructor will try to foster creative energy in every student that is willing to try.  There are some that just don't want to be there.  But yeah, I see talent everywhere, even when students don't realize it for themselves.  

ARBOL- Is L.A a good environment for your work, or irrelevant when it comes to your creativity?

RR- I’ve traveled a lot but have only lived in L.A.  And really, L.A is my muse.  I think all my paintings are based on L.A in some way or another.  Yeah, L.A is a big part of my work.  If I lived in a different city, I'm sure my work would be so much different.